Why 'Bachelor In Paradise' Dragging Out Its Shutdown Controversy Is A Huge Problem

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On Monday night, after weeks of buildup, Bachelor In Paradise finally aired the first episode in its special two-night premiere, cashing in (albeit vaguely) on its pledge to confront the very serious allegations that halted production earlier this summer. But what followed was not the thoughtful, judicious framework the show seemed to initially promise. It was a garish, protracted, and attention-baiting display not dissimilar from any other Bachelor Nation drama. The Bachelor in Paradise premiere ended with a cliffhanger, and that's profoundly disappointing, because in reality this drama is so much different than your average "to be continued" fare. (ABC declined to comment on splitting the coverage into two episodes.)

Throughout the episode, the allegations raised around Corinne and DeMario were alluded to but never outright addressed, though viewers well knew what would soon unfold. A crew member would raise concerns that there had been alleged sexual misconduct between them, filming wold be suspended, and investigations launched. DeMario would repeatedly deny all accusations, and both Warner Bros. and Corinne's lawyers would find no evidence of wrongdoing. Neither DeMario or Corinne would return to the show.

Nonetheless, Bachelor In Paradise pressed ahead with its veiled teases and knowing winks. Scenes of DeMario telling host Chris Harrison that he wanted to start fresh were intercut with an interview of Raven calling him a playboy and a liar; Alex Woytkiw (from JoJo Fletcher's season) lightheartedly narrated the pair jumping into the pool and getting flirty (producers have stated that they won't show the more sexual behavior that prompted allegations of sexual misconduct, however). But soon enough, things turned to other blooming romances, and DeMario and Corinne were largely left off-screen. In fact, aside from teasing the cliffhanger ahead of every commercial break, the incident had been all but forgotten before the episode reached its final minutes, ending with the castmates' utter confusion as producers put down their cameras and abandoned the beach — a hyped up cliffhanger all too familiar to fans of Bachelor Nation but usually reserved for tearful breakups and petty arguments.

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With this season, the franchise had an opportunity to prove itself, to show that when it really matters, producers can put aside the silly antics and schmaltzy romance and say something truly important. Instead, it fell back on the shortsighted patterns that have long defined it: Playing up real-life issues for shallow shock value.

Fans have seen it when the show has made spectacle of virginity and sexuality. They've seen it when men like Chad Johnson are continuously invited back despite abrasive behavior. Viewers even saw it on the most recent season of The Bachelorette, when Lee and Kenny were pitted against each other on a two-on-one, which was hyped in promos even after Lee's racially insensitive tweets were discovered. (ABC had no comment at the time about the two-on-one or Lee's tweets.) And now, we can officially add the controversy surrounding Corinne and DeMario to the series' list of insensitive missteps.

There is, of course, another portion of this saga yet to come on Tuesday, and from what Harrison has said in interviews, it sounds like it will be treated much more somberly. But frankly, the series has set itself up for a harrowing uphill climb it it's going to remedy the damage done with the initial cliffhanger. While Warner Bros. investigation did find no wrongdoing on set, the flippant treatment of the allegations makes a mockery of something as emotional and triggering as sexual assault allegations. Perhaps Tuesday night's episode will be more nuanced and illuminating than any in the franchise have ever been, but at this point, it doesn't seem likely.